New York Wills for Armed Forces & Mariners

The requirements for making a New York Will are simplified for members of the US army and sailors. The simplified Wills only apply to:

  • Members of the armed forces while in actual military or naval service during a war or other armed conflict in which the armed forces are engaged;
  • Persons who serve with or accompany an armed force engaged in actual military or naval service during such war/armed conflict; and
  • Mariners while at sea.

What are the simplified requirements?

Members of the military forces and seamen are entitled to make the following New York Wills:

  • Nuncupative Wills (spoken); or
  • Holographic (written but not signed or witnessed).

Oral and holographic New York Wills for armed forces & mariners are valid if made in accordance with s3-2-2 of the consolidated statute called estates, powers and trusts. This section stipulates that:

  • Nuncupative Wills – even though they are unwritten require two witnesses to clearly establish that the testator made such a Will and what the provisions of the Will are;
  • Holographic Wills – the testator does not need to sign or have the Will witnessed as long as the whole Will is written entirely in the testator’s handwriting.

Some states allow any person to make a nuncupative or holographic. However, the state of New York limits these types of Wills to military officers and sailors.

Do these Wills expire?

Yes. Unlike formal Wills, a simplified Will authorized by section 3-2-2 becomes invalid after the following expiry periods:

  • 1 year after being discharged or ceasing to serve if made by a member of the armed forces or person accompanying an armed force; or
  • 3 years from the date of making the Will if made by a mariner while at sea.

The expiration period is extended if the testator (after making the Will) loses his/her testamentary capacity (the mental ability to make a Will).

Should I use nuncupative or oral Wills?

Attorneys generally recommend that you steer clear from New York Wills for armed forces & mariners. Although they provide an easier alternative, they should only be used as a last resort if there is no opportunity to make a Will in accordance with the formal requirements. They can cause difficulties and are harder to prove in probate. You also run the risk of having such a Will expire.


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